Why Vineyard Haven's Midnight Farm is a Summer Must
By Meaghan Agnew Photography by Nina Bramhall (store); Eric Levin (Weiss and Simon)| June 23, 2014 |
Style & Beauty
Vineyard Haven’s Midnight Farm delivers the goods for island hipsters and their homes.
Tamara Weiss co-owns Midnight Farm with singer-songwriter Carly Simon.
There are a few summer must-dos on Martha’s Vineyard: climb the Edgartown lighthouse, grab lobster in Menemsha, and indulge in a shopping spree at Midnight Farm, the indie-chic boutique owned by Tamara Weiss with singer-songwriter Carly Simon as a partner. For more than 18 years, the Vineyard Haven hipster magnet has lured in every manner of island visitor—including celebrity regulars like Meg Ryan, Spike Lee, Diane Sawyer, and Steven Tyler—with its homey vibe and eclectic collection of seen-nowhere-else clothing and artisanal home wares.
Weiss remembers the exact moment her career path made an unexpected left turn into retail. “I was living in a loft in Tribeca and had just had twins,” the former movie producer recalls. “Right after a double-decker bus spritzed its fumes on my stroller, I went home crying and said [to my husband], ‘I don’t want to live here anymore.’”
Committed to a change in life and scenery, the family transplanted to a farmhouse in Chilmark. Weiss, a Hampshire College graduate and lifetime Vineyard visitor, then began plotting her retail reinvention, soon zeroing in on a nondescript former hardware store behind a Stop & Shop. “It felt like a big industrial loft and that’s what I came from, so it was just the obvious home,” Weiss says. A large plate-glass window with an inimitable view of the harbor didn’t hurt, either.
Merchandise ranges from cookbooks and furniture to handmade jewelry.
Sensing the need for a business partner, she then reached out to Simon, her best friend and fellow Vineyard die-hard. “I called Carly and said, ‘I’m going to open a store,’ and she said, ‘I’m in,’” Weiss remembers with a smile. As for a name, Weiss knew she wanted it to contain the word farm (“anything to get back to the dirt,” she says) and figured the lyricist could fill in the blank. “I asked her, ‘What’s your favorite word?’ Without hesitation she said, ‘midnight,’ and I said, ‘There it is.’” (Simon later wrote a children’s picture book of the same name, inspired in part by Weiss’s twin sons and Simon’s godchildren.)
Midnight Farm eschews specialization, instead stocking a multifarious collection that nurtures “home, body, and spirit.” That can mean anything from CalleenCordero leather messenger bags to Bella Notte bedding to a vintage glass chandelier—all reflecting the Vineyard’s upscale-comfort aesthetic and all sussed out during Weiss’s international buying trips and visits to New York trade shows.
“I believe in finding product that is unique, fair-trade, reclaimed, handmade, one-of-a-kind, and beautiful,” says Weiss, who names Ottotredici’s whisper-thin cashmere scarves as one of her favorite current items. And though the store regularly sees celebrity shoppers, Weiss firmly believes in retail egalitarianism. “One of the things that I spend a lot of time challenging myself to do is to make sure that there’s something for everyone who walks in the door,” Weiss says.
Midnight Farm’s eclectic wares nurture “home, body, and spirit.”
Exhibit A: the salsa. From the day she opened, Weiss has stocked a mango-lime salsa made especially for the store. The up-front samples have made it a longtime obsession of regulars, rumored to beeline it straight from the ferry. “Every day someone comes in and asks, “Where’s the salsa?” laughs Weiss.
Two years ago, Weiss moved Midnight Farm into a larger, two-story storefront on Main Street; the yawning, awning-adorned space gave her the ability to grow the furniture and men’s clothing inventories with pieces from 18 Waits and Autumn Cashmere. Weiss has also created several lounging areas for resting shoppers, sponsored trunk shows, and hosted impromptu performances (maybe even an in-store concert from Simon this summer). Midnight Farm’s online shop recently launched, finally giving seasonal visitors year-round access to her inimitable eye (not to mention that salsa). Next on the agenda: convincing the Obamas to pop in this summer (Bill and Hillary Clinton are already loyal customers), followed by buying trips to Morocco and India, two of Weiss’s longtime musts. “Next to the love I have for my customers, the hunt for new things is still what keeps me going,” Weiss says. “I hope I never lose sight of that.” 44 Main St., Vineyard Haven, 508-693-1997